Jesus Walked on Water and His Gaze Penetrated Storms

waveOur Lord’s miraculous walking on water is one of his unforgettable acts while he lived among mankind in human form. It speaks to us for all time of his power when we are beset and besieged.

In the lead-up to this miracle, Jesus had taken his disciples to a solitary place to rest and recover from a stretch of strenuous ministry. But the eager multitudes followed them there. As the day drew toward evening, Jesus miraculously fed 5000 men by multiplying five loaves and two fish to more than enough to satisfy the hunger of the throng (Mark 6:35 – 44).

He then immediately directed his disciples to board their boat and leave for the other side of the lake. At the same time, he left them and went up on a mountainside to pray.

As darkness settled, the disciples were far into the lake, a distance, the Apostle John says, was three or more miles from shore (John 6:19). A fierce headwind buffeted them forcing them to pull at full strength on the oars. They were in a disaster mode, and they knew the mortal perils on this lake whenever the winds whipped it with a sudden fury.

Mark tells us, Jesus, from his place on the mountainside, “saw the disciples straining at their oars.” Not, however, until about three in the morning did he go out to them walking on the water. When they saw him amongst the threshing waves and airborne spray he appeared to be a ghost. The disciples cried out in fear.

From his spot near the boat Jesus calmed their fears. ““Take courage”, he said, “it is I. Do not be afraid”. Then he climbed into the boat and the wind died down.

There are things about this story that could be baffling. Fortunately the miracle is reported in three of the four Gospel accounts, so not only does Mark give the account; two other reporters do also.

For example, Mark tells us that earlier, while they were all on land together after the feeding of the 5000, “Immediately, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat” (Mark 6:45). This is not a suggestion or bit of gentle instruction; it is a command. It feels urgent. Did Jesus purposely insist they go into waters that would soon be roiled by a dangerous windstorm?

The Apostle John may hold the answer. He notes that the miraculous feeding of the 5000 had prompted the crowds to say: “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” And subsequently, he tells us, “Jesus, knowing that (the throngs) intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself” (John 6:15).

Was Jesus actually tempted by their intentions? At the start of his ministry, after Jesus resisted the 40 days’ temptation in the wilderness, Luke 4:13 tells us that “the devil left him until an opportune time.” An opportune time? Was this that time? And is this why he sought solitude to pray? Was he under a dangerous temptation?

It was apparently a dangerous state of affairs for the disciples. They had on occasion revealed their carnal wishes about being officials in an earthly kingdom. If the idea the throngs were pondering should succeed — to make Jesus their king — this might bring about the destruction of Israel by Roman rulers. Could it be that their peril in a storm was safer than their safety on dry land? From his mountainside retreat, Jesus could see them from three miles away.

One wonders if there are times when in the sovereign wisdom of God he sees we would be safer facing a biting headwind in a roiling storm rather than being completely comfortable in a safe place where strong temptations might present themselves and overcome us.

When it comes to our Lord’s watching over us there may be a lesson for every committed believer in all of this. Caught on the stormy seas of life, we are under his watchful care even when we are not aware of it.

We might say, our Lord always has the ability to see us, whatever the circumstance. Neither darkness, nor storm, nor passing of time, nor even 2000 years of history, have done anything to reduce his power:

“Surely” he says to his followers down through the ages, ”I am with you always, even to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). What greater assurance do we need than that?

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Photo credit: Ben Salter (via


4 thoughts on “Jesus Walked on Water and His Gaze Penetrated Storms

  1. Some new insights for me from this passage. Very timely for a Lenten meditation I am working on for Wednesday noon this week. Thank you Bishop Bastian.

  2. Hi Don: I recall you preaching on a similar story–Jesus calming the sea when he was in the boat. Some of your description of that event as you preached at the church in Lexington still come to mind. At that time your description set a new pattern (I thought) among preachers.
    Blessings, Roy

  3. Thanks for your challenging new angle on this story! I had never thought of the idea of his having them leave to avoid the political temptations!

  4. After the Miracle of the Five Thousand .Jesus sent His disciples by boat to the far shore of the sea or lake of Galilee, a giant lake,but the size of a sea, like those great Canadian lakes. Three or more miles out a furious storm rises .It must have been terrifying considering the fishing boats of the day.

    We can get an idea of the kind of boat by the ‘Sea of Galilee’ boat ,also known as the ‘Jesus boat’ ,found on the north west shore of Galilee lake in 1861.There is no proof it was the boat in this miracle, but being a 1st century boat it is at least the kind of boat. And who knows? Anyway it was a dangerous situation. But Jesus has His eye on the boat. In His good time , Jesus walks out upon the water to the disciples

    From Jesus’s viewpoint His disciples are safe. He watches them. From the disciples view, They are in terrible danger .Jesus assures them they are safe. Then Jesus calms the storm.

    I never considered t this event may show us Jesus wisely retreating from the worldly temptations offered by the crowd, Jesus sends the disciples away from the crowd to the far shore. He Himself withdraws to the mountain to pray .So this is a retreat from the world .The crowd offered Jesus the same worldly glory the devil offered Him in the wilderness.

    notice Jesus withdraws to pray at every possibility of temptation In the garden of Gethsemane , Jesus ,being wholly human as well as wholly divine ,must have feared the imminent cruel events .Didn’t He ask God to take away this cup of agony and sorrow? So at this time of fear and temptation He withdrew to sort it out and strengthen Himself by prayer, by communion with God, as the disciples slept. In a few weeks many of us we shall reenact this event in commemoration. We shall wakefully keep vigil on Maundy Thursday.

    Every temptation of Christ in the Bible, from the 3 great temptations in the wilderness to the brief lack of resolve at Gethsemane ,have a special purpose for us ,I believe .They show us how to resist temptation. They show us temptation comes when we are at our most vulnerable .Times of hunger ,as Jesus hungered in the wilderness. Or on the eve of great fear inducing challenges , like Jesus’s great moment of challenge at Gethsemane.

    In the Bible Jesus is the perfect model for how to resist temptation.

    When tempted, let us remember Jesus in the wilderness. At moments of great danger and fear ,let us recall our Savior at Gethsemane ,in His Agony.
    The disciples were only human, Even the best of them ,even the beloved disciple , quarreled over who would be senior in the Kingdom.

    How tempted they would be , as Jesus’s associates , now Jesus is lauded at the center of an adoring crowd, offering a crown and worldly glory. I can see that Jesus would perceive this danger. And so shepherd His flock into a boat ,to safety on the lake’s far shores.

    A little earlier in history , Julius was tempted with a crown in Rome by the Roman crowd ,the plebiscite. Julius fell to temptation, took the crown ,becoming Julius Caesar. So initiating a new reign of Caesars, breaking the Republic. Jesus refused the crown, resisted temptation an d carried on His path to Calvary and our salvation.

    Upon such moments history and human fate hangs and turns .Julius’s fall to temptation led to an empire of cruelty and pain. Jesus’s resistance to temptation led to our deliverance.

    Sadly, later, when Jesus is showered with contempt not praise , offered a crown of thorns not gold,the disciples will be conspiciuos by their absence and their demial . They are flesh ,after all.

    Pastor, you indicate something that offers us great comfort .In times of threat and danger, our Savior sees us, He watches over us. He may challenge us, make demands of us , but in the end we are safe under his watch. He is there even when we forget He is. When we cannot see Him ,yet He sees us !

    We can know in our hearts that He is with us always ,holding us up with His strong Hamds.. His Hands are safe Hands. Jesus is like His Father, one with His Father .He is our strong deliverer ! Ever guide us, strong deliverer ! Guide us safely through the snares and pitfalls that beset our path through life !

    On his deathbed John Wesley said over and over

    ‘’The best of all is, God is with us!’’ John Wesley

    John Wesley felt the assurance of God’s constant presence. He knew . So must we.

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